When we come to Christ, when we believe, we discover that we have a new position in Him. We belong to God and His church. The Christian’s believing and belonging ought to lead a Christ-follower to become like Christ. Christ-followers are called to commit themselves to help one another in this wonderful pursuit.
In Jesus’ high priestly prayer, recorded in John 17, we discover, in verses 13-19, that He makes two requests on His follower’s behalf. The first request that Jesus makes is that we become like Him, filled with joy (see: Jn 17:13-16).
Jesus had a life filled with joy. This is not to say that He did not also know sorrow and grief. But, there was a joy and a satisfaction in life that surpassed the joy of any other who ever lived. Think about it. Christ’s joy was rooted in unbroken fellowship with God His Father. Christ’s joy was the fruit of true faith and confidence in His Father. Christ’s joy came from seeing the great things God had done. Christ’s joy was never diminished by His own sin, for He had none. Christ’s joy was never lessened by allowing even the smallest foothold of the devil. Jesus was so concerned that we have joy that He prayed that we would be filled with it.
God’s purpose is to multiply joy in our lives, not subtract it. The world, the flesh, and the devil would tell us that God wants to rob us of joy, but God wants joy fulfilled in our lives. We must be careful not to fall into the trap of believing that something forbidden by God would ever bring fulfillment and joy in our life. The Holy Spirit uses the truth of the Bible, God’s Word, to transform us and bring us to a place where we are filled with joy,
The second request that Jesus makes is that we become like Him, sanctified (see: Jn 17:17-19). Sanctify means to be set apart for God and implies the work of the Holy Spirit, making a believer more and more like Christ in character. Jesus did not leave His disciples to “sanctify” themselves. He prayed for our sanctification. Sanctification is a work of God in us and through us. More completely stated, Jesus prays: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” – The dynamic behind sanctification is “truth.” This truth spoken of is the word of God read, heard, understood, and applied. The primary way the Holy Spirit sanctifies us if through the very word of God, the Bible. The 19th-century British preacher Charles Spurgeon explained:
“The more truth you believe, the more sanctified you will be. The operation of truth upon the mind is to separate a man from the world unto the service of God.”
Jesus consecrated Himself, offered Himself, as a sacrifice for our sin that His followers would share in His righteousness. We are made right with God in Christ. It is the work of the Holy Spirit to make us holy. We grow from one degree of Christlikeness to a greater degree as we walk with Him in obedience (see: 2 Cor 3:16-18). The sanctification Jesus had in mind here was not only personal holiness (though that is included), but also being set apart for God’s service and mission. We are called to share the love and message of Christ with others in the hope that they will come to faith in Him. We are no one’s savior, but we are called to point people to the Savior.
Jesus’ prayer was not wishful thinking. He confidently prayed knowing that the believer who partners with the Holy Spirit (the Holy Spirit being the senior partner in the relationship) will become more and more like Christ. Jesus desires for every believer to filled with Joy and be sanctified, becoming more like Him in character and partnering with Him in mission. Through His finished work on the cross and the Holy Spirit’s continual work in our lives, this is an actual reality.
Let’s encourage each other as followers of Christ to become more like the Lord. Further, may we assist one another to this end. I pray that each of us will be found with ever-increasing joy as well as being transformed more and more in Christ’s character and partnering with Him in mission. Soli Deo Gloria (Glory to God Alone)!